How Social Media Warps Democracy

Facebook and the Web of Trust

Here’s a long read to put on your list as you head into the weekend. It examines social media and its impact on democracy and our psyche.

The problem may not be connectivity itself but rather the way social media turns so much communication into a public performance. We often think of communication as a two-way street. Intimacy builds as partners take turns, laugh at each other’s jokes, and make reciprocal disclosures. What happens, though, when grandstands are erected along both sides of that street and then filled with friends, acquaintances, rivals, and strangers, all passing judgment and offering commentary?

Check It Out: How Social Media Warps Democracy

3 thoughts on “How Social Media Warps Democracy

  • Andrew:

    Many thanks for sharing this article. I’ve shared it amongst a number in my circle, all of whom enjoyed it.

    One of the distinctions I’ve observed in the TMO discussion threads over the years, exceptions notwithstanding, is the largely civil and thoughtful tone of the posts, and a far lower titre of ad hominem attacks per column of comments than many other sites, including those dedicated to tech. TMO deserves credit for pushing back on the occasional gratuitously offensive post, whilst doing a comparatively good job of not restricting free exchange of ideas. The readers, likewise, who post deserve equal credit for self-policing and restraint in responding to opposing points of view. This really does set this site apart from many others and is a reason yours truly remains a supporting reader.

    That said, one thing that TMO have adopted on its platform, a borrowed nugget from FB that is more paste than pearl in my opinion, is the use of ‘likes’ in the comment section. My observation is that it is infrequently used. It’s purpose and effect are alike unclear, and it appears more often than not most frequent as a negative vote for unpopular points of view. This comes across as unhelpful group censure in the form of shaming by showing how many people disapprove of a post, which can be accomplished in other ways, such as the recipient not taking the bate and responding with a thoughtful and, yes, courteous response. My observation is that other commenters respond accordingly, with the effect of deescalation and a return to topic.

    I think that TMO should discontinue the ‘like’ button and consign it to the rubbish bin. Yes, I am ‘unliking’ the ‘like’ button.


    1. Hi, thanks for the nice comment. As far as comments go, I think they’re powered by Disqus and the like buttons are a feature of that, rather than something we explicitly added.

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